Open Arms

291708_4875163839951_1369268_nBeing a CrossFit Co-Owner and Coach, I see and hear A LOT!

I know so much about my clients, both athletically and personally.  Not only do I know their 1 rep max Front Squat and their “Fran” time, but I also know about their struggle to care for their mother fighting cancer, I know how their husband proposed, I know that they are working two jobs to make ends meet, I know about the cheating wife, the monster-in-law, the traumatic childhood, the husband away on deployment, the daughter with special needs, the car accident that took away their parents, the daily struggles of being a single parent, the insecurities they have in a swimsuit, the demons that haunt them.

I know everything.  Being a coach isn’t just about training people in fitness.  It’s also about being a mentor and therapist in many ways.

I know when my clients are having a bad day, when they are sandbagging a workout, when they need me to yell at them, and when they need me to hug them.  I know when I can push them, and when I need to back off.  I know what drives them, and what pushes them away.

And, I have heard so many amazing stories.  So many feats of courage.  So many heartbreaks, tragedies, hardships, and downright sh***y things.  And, believe it or not, sometimes it’s the person with the brightest smile and seemingly “perfect” life who has the saddest stories to tell.

So often, when a client pours her heart out to me, she then assumes that everyone else at our gym is living an awesome, carefree life.  She thinks she has it harder than everyone else.  She believes that no one else is going what she’s going through.

She feels alone.

I think this is why so many people often feel ashamed or embarrassed about their lives.  They think they are the only ones going through whatever it is they are dealing with.

The grass always looks greener on the other side.  And, many of us feel the need to put on a front and fake perfection in order to be like everyone else…When in actuality, we are all faking it, and we are all hurting inside.

Facebook is by far the biggest culprit of this!  Check out this short video:

I can tell you, from firsthand experience, from ALLLLLLLL of the thousands of stories I have been told by hundreds of clients ~ YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!

Heck, even I have sh***y days and a few demons lingering around.  My life is not perfect by any means, and I still have hardships from time to time.  Last year, I went to therapy for over a year to overcome a traumatic experience in high school.  My father is a food addict with Diabetes Type II.  My brother is an Alcoholic living with my parents.  Spencer and I fight sometimes.  I’ve yelled at Bailey before.  I’ve done things that I am not proud of.  I’ve said things to my mother as a teenager that I wish I could take back.

Sh** happens.  Life happens.

You are not alone.

You don’t have to pretend.  In fact, of all of the places, the CrossFit gym is the last place you need to put on a front and hide your life.

Why do you think we all come here, anyway?!!  That’s right – To sweat out all that bullsh** from the day, to grunt out all the pain, to lift up our moods, to run off some steam, and to fight and support each other through it for that hour.

That one hour – We get to be together as one, and through all of our personal struggles, we get to escape our lives for that moment, and just be.  We get to turn it off, and for that one hour we can be together as a family and help each other through it.

But, instead of directly helping someone through her nasty divorce, during the WOD you are helping her through those last 10 reps to prove to herself that she can not only get through the WOD itself, but she can also get through this divorce.  By encouraging and supporting her through the workout, we are inadvertently supporting her through her tough time.

Running alongside a member in the last 400m, you are inadvertently telling him that you are by his side, both inside the gym and in life.

Cheering on a member during the workout, you are inadvertently helping her gain self-confidence.

The things we do for each other inside of the gym have a HUGE impact on our personal lives, whether we realize it or not.

So many people write about how CrossFit has saved their lives.  But, the truth of the matter is, CrossFit has saved ALL of our lives in some way or another.

None of us have it worse.  None of us have it better.  It’s a relative thing.  We all have struggles and hardships.  We have all experienced difficult times at one point or another.

The question is ~ Are you going to be a victim, or are you going to be stronger?!  I don’t like the word survivor, personally, because it implies a victim.

Remember that you truly are not alone in this world.  You are not the only one.  Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed.  Don’t assume others have it better, either.

You have one of the best support systems ever ~ Your CrossFit family!

CrossFit is here with open arms.

Embrace it.

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Body Image

body_lsThe other day, I saw a nice post on Facebook by a woman named Taryn Brumfitt.  She is trying to start a new movement she calls “Embrace,” which is trying to promote global change for women to love their bodies.  You can check it all out here (click on title): Embrace

There are a lot of similar movements like this.  Dove, the skincare product, encourages the same idea to love your body, all shapes and sizes.  And, I see it all the time on Facebook – Other articles, blogs, ads, memes, and what-not that promote loving your body, no matter what.

I have to be really blunt, though.  And, I’m going to hit nerves with a lot of people, probably.  But, here it is…

I get really frustrated and annoyed with all of these movements to love your body just the way it is.  There is a HUGE hole that is being ignored here.  While I understand and appreciate what all of these movements are trying to do, there is a MUCH greater issue going on.  It is not a mere matter of body image and blaming social media and the beauty industry for our distorted views of ourselves.  It’s not a simple remedy of just loving your body the way it is.

There is a reason why people become obese.  There’s a reason why people deteriorate and let their bodies go.  There’s something going on inside.  Deep, deep inside.

Now, I’m going to put in the disclaimer now that there are always exceptions to everything, and there are those few out there who have legitimate health issues out of their control that prevent them from having a size 6 jeans or rock hard abs.  So, leave that out of this.  I’m talking about the rest of us who have the ability and capability, and just don’t do it.

When I was a freshman in college, I gained the “Freshman 15,” and then some!  And, I can’t blame it on the partying and alcohol, because I was severely allergic to alcohol then, and I just never was a big party animal.  I gained weight with food and not much exercise.  For someone who grew up super athletic, there was clearly something wrong.

I’m 5’3″ and I started college around 135 pounds.  By the time I reached my junior year, I was pushing 165, and it was not muscle!  That just is not healthy for me, and for a movement to tell me that it is okay, and that I should just love my body the way it is…It’s not addressing the real issue!

I hated my body because all of that excess weight was a constant reminder of all the baggage that I was carrying emotionally.  I ate to coax myself and temporarily soothe the pain.  But, as I added weight, it added to the obvious issues I was having inside, except now I couldn’t hide it because it was evident in how my clothes fit.

My body was telling everyone that I was “damaged goods.”

I hated my body because I hated myself.  It was never really about my body, per se.

Hating my body was just an after effect of hating myself.

I was severely unhappy with the decisions I had made in my life, the crappy people I let into my life, and the horrible experiences I had to endure on my own without help and support.  I was broken inside, and it started to show on the outside as I gained weight.

So, this is what I’m getting at here.  Most of us, especially women, have horrible body images NOT because of social media and the beauty industries, but because of something else much deeper inside of us.

Social media and the beauty industries are just the scapegoat.

It is not the responsibility of the world to give you a good body image.

It starts and ends with YOU.

It taking personal responsibility.  Fully and completely.

I reached my breaking point my senior year at college.  I was a lifeguard at our college campus swimming pool, and one day I was sitting down in my lifeguard chair and suddenly realized that my big belly was actually touching my thighs.  I cried when I got home.  I needed help, and I needed to change.  Thankfully, our school campus had free counseling on site, so I took advantage of it, and it helped a lot.  Unfortunately, though, I started in the spring and then graduated, so I only had about 2 months of help.  It was help nonetheless, though, and gave me a kick start to changing my life.

The only problem was, I went super hardcore into fitness, and although I fixed the health issue, I did not really fix the emotional issue.  It’s a funny thing…Often we say that we workout to relieve stress and deal better with things, buuut, if you never truly deal with the REAL ISSUES, then it’s just a hamster wheel you’re running on.

I was training for half Ironmans, working out two to three times a day, and super fit.  I was Wonder Woman…With a lot of emotional baggage.  I went from one extreme to the other, but still had the same internal issues.

I went from thinking that I could “eat my problems away, ” to thinking that I could “run/swim/bike/train my problems away.”

The other day, I was watching the movie, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” with my daughter, and in the beginning the main character, Flint, invents spray-on shoes to solve the childhood problem of untied shoelaces.  But, he fails to think ahead of how he would take them off, so he is permanently stuck with wearing the spray-on shoes, and all of the school kids make fun of him.  As he runs home in the rain crying, he says, “I wanted to run away that day, but you can’t run away from your own feet.”

You can’t run away from your own problems.

Doesn’t matter if you try to eat sweets, workout three times a day, work long hours, shop till you drop, or do drugs.  Those are all just temporary remedies, but with consequences, because now not only do you still have the same problems still looming around, but now you also have new ones – Excess weight, Diabetes, sports injury, sleep deprivation, credit card debt, and addiction.

So, this is why I always have a hard time with all of these body image movements.  It’s a nice idea, and I appreciate the good intentions, but it’s just not that black and white.  Nor should anyone be okay with being 100 pounds overweight.  I don’t think everyone has to be a CrossFitter, and I certainly do not expect everyone to be super fit and 10% body fat, but I do expect people to be healthy, body AND mind, whatever that means for you.

Being a mother of a daughter now, I constantly think about how I am going to address these issues with her one day.  When she looks at those beauty magazines and commercials, how will I teach her that those are just marketing gimmicks, and beauty comes from how you treat yourself and others?  Beauty is through actions.

This past year, I went through a lot of therapy to finally address my issues from over 16 years ago that have followed and haunted me all this time.  After completing the CF Open and my therapy, I got to really experience for the first time in my life what it felt like to have all that “weight lifted off of my shoulders.”  It’s an amazing feeling.

I learned to forgive.  I learned to embrace my past, because it has made me into who I am today, and while I would never wish what happened to me to happen to even my worst enemy, I am strangely grateful for it all.

And, maybe that’s what Taryn Brumfitt and all of these body image movements are trying to get at.  To embrace your past and accept the circumstances you were given?  To forgive yourself and those who hurt you?  Maybe?  But, they always seem so sugar-coated and simple – It’s the beauty industry’s fault, and we should just love ourselves exactly the way we are.  Period.

Ha!  If only it were that simple…

Now that I have truly let go of the past, and am building a better life today, I am falling in love with myself for the first time.  And, in turn, I have very little to no body image issues now.  Go figure!  I am by no means “perfect” or “model material,” and technically I probably have about 5 to 10 pounds of excess weight.  BUT, I’m f***ing happy and healthy!!!

Because I love myself, I now love my body and the things that I can do with it.

It starts and ends with you.

No amount of Dove products and feel-good movements are going to address your own problems.  You have to go deeper than that.  Much deeper.

Beauty really is from within.  But, too many of us are too scared to go inside and get it.

Just remember, anything worth doing is going to be really hard.

Your body image is not the issue.

Dig deep.

Beautiful Barbell

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The barbell never lies.  Ever.

But, are you paying attention when it’s talking back to you in your lifts?  You should…

This is me the other day trying to get a PR in my 1 rep max Snatch.  One of my best attempts at triple extension, if I do say so myself. 😉

I have to be honest, in the past year, I’ve completely slacked off in my lifting.  I definitely did not do nearly enough strength and skill sets as I should have been.

What I did do is “maintain.”

The sad truth is, I am Deadlifting and Snatching the exact same weight I was a year ago.  Why?  Because of all of the lifts, those are the two I hate the most.  They are my weaknesses, and just like any other human being, my natural tendency is to avoid them whenever possible.

But, after my big breakthrough in the CF Open season, I realized that the Snatch is the perfect representation of how I’ve dealt with my life for so many years.  I worked up to a weight that I was comfortable with, and then once it got hard, I stopped progressing and just stayed at that plateau, and made a lot of excuses for it.

Somehow, I was okay with staying in the same place.

For many years, I worked hard to get to a certain point in my life, and then I would just stop progressing and would maintain a level of “good enough.”

I got by in life.

I got just enough good grades for the honor roll in high school.  I did just enough to please the teachers and keep them off my back.  I did just enough on my SATs to get accepted to college.  And, I actually only applied to one college.  That’s how little I thought of myself.  It was totally a safe situation, though, because I knew I met all of the requirements.  I went with the “easy route.”

I originally majored in Occupational Therapy.  But, then it got hard.  Really hard.  And, just like the Snatch, I suddenly stopped progressing and made excuses.  I got scared.  I didn’t want to face it and put in all that work.  It was just “too hard.”  So, I eventually quit OT, and went into Psychology.  Psychology was “safe.”  Another “easy route” for me to take.  And, even there, I did just enough to graduate with decent grades.  I can claim to have graduated with Psi Chi Honors, but in all honesty, I just barely met the minimum requirements for that.

After college, though, I did grow up some, and eventually took pride in something I did, which was being a summer swim coach in San Rafael.  I coached the team for six years, and was Head Coach for the last two.  It was the first time in a very long time that I actually went above and beyond the call of duty, took great pride in what I did, and worked really hard.  I invested my heart and soul into that team.  For once in my life, I actually felt fulfilled and accomplished.  But, then, unfortunately, the volunteer board members my last year of coaching had ulterior motives, swept the rug from under my feet, and I suddenly found myself betrayed and left out in the cold.

It was a heartbreaking experience, and it only validated the reasons why I hadn’t tried so hard in the first place.  I hate to admit it now, but it left a bitter taste in my mouth, and made me step back into my old bad habits again.

As an elementary school teacher in Corte Madera, I was thankfully surrounded by awesome people, which in turn, motivated me to be awesome.  Unfortunately, though, it didn’t trickle down into any other areas of my life.  So, I was a super awesome, hard working teacher, but then the second I got home, I was mediocre at best at everything else.

Then, I found CrossFit.  It was just like everything else in my life – I started out strong and motivated, worked really hard, was even asked to train with the team, and then I reached my plateau.  I stopped progressing, I started making excuses, and I missed my opportunity to go to Regionals and the Games with the team.

When Spencer and I opened our box in 2011, I was reinvigorated and ready to take on competition again.  But, right at my peak, I suddenly got pregnant, which obviously put things on hold for a while.

So, this all leads us now to the last two years of my training.  After I had Bailey, I trained like crazy for the Open 2013, and I was actually doing really well.  All of my hard work was finally paying off.

But, then in the 4th week of the Open, I managed to get a horrible stomach flu that left me depleted and dehydrated for a week, and I was barely able to even get a decent score completed.  I was like 500th overall in that workout, which yanked away my chances at Regionals.

It gave me flashbacks of my summer swim team being taken away from me.  Now Regionals was being taken away from me.  And, again, I fell back into that “feeling sorry for myself” mode.

And so, I trained hard this past year for the Open…But, definitely not like crazy like the previous year, and honestly, I did “just enough” most of the time.

Deep down, I was holding back due to fear of it being taken away from me again.

The barbell was telling me this the entire time.  My lifts were not increasing.  The Snatch felt foreign to me most of the time.  I wasn’t making gains and getting PR’s like I should have been, and the barbell let me know it.  But, instead of listening to the bar, I made excuses.

About six months before the Open began, I finally did something for myself that I should have done a long time ago – I started going to therapy.  Therapy is just like CrossFit – It only works if you have a good therapist, just like CrossFit only works if you have a good coach!  Thankfully, I have a great one!

Through therapy, I was able to finally face some demons and deal with my past.  In dealing with my past, I was able to start taking things head on.  But, when that happened, it was already too late for the Open.  I still did really well overall, but I didn’t qualify for Regionals.

That’s my fault, and mine alone.  Bad habits die hard.  Change takes time.  And so, the Open became my breakthrough therapy session, rather than an actual competition.

I was fighting for myself…not for a high score.

I was qualifying for life…not for Regionals.

I was certainly heartbroken that I didn’t make it to Regionals, but the difference this time in my life is that I am NOT left with a bitter taste in my mouth, nor am I feeling sorry for myself or wanting to retreat.

This time, I want to try harder.  I want to be better.

For too damn long, I floated through life and ducked from every punch thrown at me.

Now, I’m the one throwing punches.

Lately, the barbell and I have had a different relationship.  A better one.  A stronger one.

Last Thursday, when I was going for a 1 rep max Snatch, it was the first time since August 2013 that I attempted anything over 125#.  And, I didn’t just add a few pounds, I went for 135# with gusto!  Unfortunately, after about 7 or 8 attempts, I failed to complete it.  However, I did get under that bar every time, and the fact that I kept trying was a huge deal for me, personally.

Then, yesterday, during Competition Training class, we did a Clean & Jerk ladder.  It started at 65# and went up by 10’s.  I made my way to 185#.  I missed the Jerk, though.  So, I tried again.  Missed again.  Tried one more time.  Just barely missed the Jerk, again.  But, each time the Clean felt stronger, and the determination in my kept grew (Rather than diminish, like the old me).  So, I went for a 4th attempt.  Cleaned it well, again, but missed the Jerk.  Oh well.  It was another successful experience for me still, because I was finally going hard and fighting for things.

The barbell is a beautiful thing.  I really have learned a lot from it.  Because, even though I have made huge changes in my life recently, and I am finally moving in the right direction, it’s still going to take time for other things to happen.  It’s not all overnight!  I have to keep working hard at it. And so, even the barbell reminds me of this fact with my recent Snatch and C&J lifts.

So, the next time you’re lifting that barbell, listen to it.  What is it telling you?

What does the barbell say about you?